Last week I sent out a tweet with this picture attached….
The picture is a list of all the overseas players who had, at the time, committed to a stint with an English county in the forthcoming season. Many people lauded the superb display of talents and stated how great it was that big name players would be playing in England this summer.
However, I still had some replies that regarded this list of players as inferior to all other domestic leagues – the absence of some headline Indian players being the main sticking point. But I would argue that, the IPL aside, this is the greatest list of overseas talent assembled in one domestic season in the last decade.
Added to the raft of names above, we can now pencil in a certain West Indian hard-hitting opener. Chris Gayle has signed up for a six-match stint with Somerset for the T20 Blast this summer. Gayle is the embodiment and proof that county cricket still has the prestige, wherewithal, and financial clout, to entice the worlds very best players.
It has been said, particularly over the past three years as the Big Bash has grown, that the English domestic game is no longer attracting the world’s best talent. Admittedly due to the nature of English scheduling, and the existence of 18 counties meaning a long season, a large number of these overseas players are only available for short stints.
But county cricket will surely benefit from having such box office stars in their competitions. Not only will they boost ticket sales, and make marketing a whole heap easier, it should also benefit the talented young English players they play alongside. Embracing a number of overseas stars should be beneficial to the England side in the long run. County Cricket will be welcoming world-cup finalists Martin Guptill, Grant Elliott, and Corey Anderson to these shores in the summer, and I have no doubt that they will attract crowds, boost the profile of the game, and provide some great cricket to boot.
As the summer gets closer, and people insist on telling me that county cricket is a dying game and an unmarketable product, hopefully I will be able to point them in the direction of a full house at Hove, the Oval or Taunton to see Sangakkara, Jayawardene or Gayle. Despite the riches on offer in franchise tournaments across the globe, county cricket is proving that not franchising does not mean any less ability to attract the world’s top players.